Latin programming on WKCR began in 1970. At the time, the only other Latin music available on the radio was via commercial stations that played older music and romantic ballads. This all changed with WKCR's introduction of salsa to the airwaves. Our team of Latin programmers was especially interested in the history of not only salsa, but also other danceable latin genres such as mambo, chachachá, and bugalú, and took every opportunity to inform their audience through oral histories and musician interviews. Musicians of these genres based in New York City and elsewhere then began to compete for airtime on the one station that was playing the music that they created and loved. Some of the most notable musicians interviewed over the years have been Machito, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Willie Colón, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, among many others.
Because WKCR's Latin programming had gained so much popularity in New York City, other universities in the area soon followed WKCR's lead and started similar programs. Commercial radio stations also followed suit and made room in their own programming schedules for these increasingly-popular danceable genres of Latin music. Nevertheless, these stations could never compete with the consideration WKCR has for its listeners, its special birthday and memorial broadcasts, and the exceptional programming that values quality over popularity.
Over the years, the Latin department has developed a reputation as a leader in Latin music broadcasting, and it is this tradition that has been passed along to each new generation of programmers.